Voices Behind the Vote

For the 2012 election, the KUNM newsroom produced a series of voter profiles. Everyday New Mexicans talked about the issues that matter most to them in the voting booth. I produced four profiles for the series that represented a range of perspectives on politics:

  • A couple from Placitas, NM who identify as libertarians and are concerned about government spending: Small is Beautiful.
  • A young family who supports President Obama and hopes that immigration reform will be achieved if Obama is elected to a second term in office: Family of Three.
  • A retired Albuquerque High teacher who sees the country changing and is concerned about how well political parties serve the interests of young people: The Country is Changing.
  • And a firearms instructor who is thinking about protections for the constitution and how best to allocate the government’s financial resources : Head and Heart.
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New Mexico: A Different Debate Over Immigration

While reporting on immigration in New Mexico, I often hear people say “New Mexico is not Arizona.” This comes from all political perspectives, including elected officials and everyday New Mexicans. I checked in with some Native American leaders in New Mexico about immigration and the 2012 elections.

Laurie Weahkee, director of the Albuquerque-based Native American Voters Alliance, says “a lot of Native American folks have mixed feelings about the driver’s license issue,” but her organization supports keeping it. “We feel that all drivers need to be licensed,” says Weakhee, because “it promotes safety for everyone.” Weahkee, who is Dineh, Cochiti, and Zuni Pueblo Indian, says undocumented immigrants who have a driver’s license can purchase car insurance and are more likely to stick around after an accident to file a police report because they don’t have to be afraid of interacting with the police.

New Mexico’s 19 pueblos have deep roots to the land that their ancestors called home and have dealt with newcomers for centuries. San Ildefonso Pueblo Governor Terry Aguilar says his tribe cooperates with local and state officials on immigration issues, but they have not taken a stance on the New Mexico driver’s license policy. Governor Aguilar says as long as tribes are able to maintain sovereignty in their own laws, federal immigration laws should continue to be enforced and “everybody should be accountable for their actions.”

Full story at Indian Country Today

Latino USA: Rising Republican Star

I profiled New Mexico Governor Susana Martinez for the nationally syndicated radio program Latino USA. Governor Martinez is the first Latina governor in the country. She’s also getting a lot of attention from the national Republican Party this year.

Rising Republican Star

In the Latino USA profile, we mention a recent Newsweek/the Daily Beast profile of Martinez: What New Mexico’s Governor Can Teach the GOP. Governor Martinez’s stance on immigration in that article was on people’s minds and it will be interesting to see how she approaches immigration issues in the future, both in the 2012 elections and beyond.

Primary Season

Albuquerque voters will be able to choose two new members of Congress in 2012.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D) retired after five terms in office. Representative Martin Heinrich (D) left his seat in the 1st Congressional District to run for the open senate seat. That means his U.S House seat will be a race to watch.

Three Democrats are vying for the party’s nomination on the ballot in November – former Albuquerque mayor Marty Chavez, State Senator Eric Griego and Bernalillo County Commissioner Michelle Lujan Grisham. I covered the Democratic 1st Congressional District primary for NMPolitics.net:

Chávez’s past may be a ‘double-edged sword’

Griego: ‘People want you to stand for something’

Grisham has already defied expectations

A Different Kind Of Border State

New Mexico has flown under the radar for years in the national immigration debate. Maybe it’s the state’s small population of about 2 million residents. It might also be the unique demographics – about 44% of New Mexicans identify as Hispanic or Latino. State and local leaders, especially in northern New Mexico, have adopted policies to protect immigrants from discrimination. New Mexico also currently lets anyone get a driver’s license, regardless of immigration status. But, some immigrants’ rights advocates are raising concerns that federal policies and local politics are hurting the state’s tolerant culture.

I did two stories for KUNM as part of my fellowship with the Institute for Justice and Journalism’s Immigration in the Heartland program.

New Mexico’s Immigration History Shapes Debate Today

Secure Communities Targets Undocumented Immigrants In NM

Are Political Battles Really Necessary?

It’s a dilemma.  Politicians need to distinguish themselves to get elected, but collaboration is necessary once they’re in office.  That’s if they want to get legislation passed, either in the New Mexico legislature or in Washington D.C.

One New Mexico group is starting a new conversation about collaborative politics this summer. I spoke with Heather Balas of New Mexico First for All Things Considered on KUNM.